Bimal Debbarma changed the music scene of Tripura in the 80s and 90s by writing and composing songs that the indigenous youth could identify with. His songs spoke of romance, love for the motherland, and the political alienation of the people. His death on April 14th is being mourned by his fans, both young and old.
Humankind and music cannot function without one another. Music has the power to culturally, morally and emotionally influence our society and every musician plays a huge role in that. Every society gives birth to great musicians who take their music industry to a new level of success and fame. In Tripura, Bimal Debbarma changed the music scene by promoting Kokborok music and taking it to the masses. It is with a heavy heart that the people of the state bid him farewell as he passed away on April 14 at the age of just 51 due to bad health.
Bimal had a bass voice that sang of the land, the people, and the beautiful hills and plains. He struck a chord with other indigenous people who were drawn to the lyrics that spoke of their identity and culture. Bimal started his music career in the 1980s when the Kokborok music scene was heavily dependent on folk songs. Him and his colleagues such as Jayanta Jamatia, Kwplai Jamatia, and Gautam Debbarma rejuvenated the scene by introducing new beats and modern instruments. They wrote songs that were contemporary and that talked about the crisis being faced by the people be it the nostalgia of the past, or the threat of immigration.
Tripuri people have always been connected with music. Every festival or celebration is a platform for the people to sing songs that represent the ethos of the occasion. Bimal Debbarma used to sing on Tripura New Year called Tring and on all other important days. He was a household name and his cassettes used to sell out.
His untimely death has led to an outpouring of grief from the indigenous communities of Tripura. Many people have given condolences to him and his family. Singer Parmita Reang has written, “I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear about the untimely demise of our veteran Singer Ata Bimal Debbarma. Wansugwi maya chini ata Bimal chwng no aswk dakti yakarwi thangnai hinwi,U swkango o si hospital o malai phaimani, wansukmani twrwk twrwk hamanw hinwi (I can’t imagine our brother left us so soon. I met him recently at the hospital. I was praying that he will recover).”
Early Life: Bimal Debbarma was born on 10th of December 1970 in Twisa Rangchak village, Khowai. He came from a humble family consisting of a sister and three brothers. He is the second youngest child of the family. His father's name is Sumala Debbarma and his mother's name is Bidhya Lakhi Debbarma. He showed an inclination towards music at an early age learning his first notes from his mother who was also a singer. Indeed, it was his mom, a harmonium teacher, who became his inspiration to enter the world of music. He did his schooling from Khowai Govt. Higher Secondary School. Bimal never formally studied music or took any music lessons. His music was his inborn talent that he used to reach out to the people.
Singing Career: Bimal formally started his singing career at an age of 22 with his first song "Mokol ni mwktwi" (tears of eyes) in 1992. It was his first song and it was an instant hit. With the success of this song he attained the confidence to establish a career in music. In 1993 he was hired as a singer by the Radio Center of Agartala where he regularly performed. Bimal was a prolific lyricist and wrote more than a 100 songs. According to him, his favourite songs is "Khatijag nini bagwi" which translates to "Saved for you". Although a majority of his song were based on love and romance, he has written songs on patriotism and nationalism. One of the most notable among them all is "O ha chini, sabo sa bwini" which means "This land is ours, who said otherwise" which really reflects the hardship suffered by the sons and daughters of the land. His most famous songs are "Thangwi tongna mwchwngya", "Kha o mithikhe ba", "Nuksu kunani khislang kosom le". He received accolades and honours from various institutions all through his singing career.
In an interview to news channel Kok Tripura, he said that his favourite new singers are Manik Debbarma and Parmita Reang. He wished them the best for their good future and advised them to work for the upliftment of the society through their songs. He also encouraged them to keep singing in Kokborok.
Bimal Debbarma married singer Flora Debbarma and had two sons named Aitor Debbarma, 15 and Barfang Debbarma, 19. In 2017 Bimal Debbarma had a mini heart attack and after that his health started to worsen. He suffered multiple strokes in 2021 and was admitted to the ICU of GB Hospital in Agartala. He finally succumbed to the ailment on April 14.
Bimal Debbarma may have left this world but he will live forever through his music. His contribution to the music industry will always be remembered. What he did for the society should inspire people to contribute more to it and do good for the well being of the people.
My farewell message to him is, “Legend, you are not with us anymore, but you and your songs will remain in our heart forever".
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.